This week's GAA news from Ireland.

Armagh Peaking at Right Time

Rory Grugan served notice of Armagh’s intentions with a goal after just 10 seconds of their All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round two clash with Donegal in Clones on Sunday – by the full-time whistle they were 3-17 to 0-16 ahead and well worthy of their place in the quarterfinals when Galway await in just over a week’s time.

Rian O’Neill added another goal and seven points to secure the Man of the Match award as Kieran McGeeney’s men ended Donegal’s summer and avenged their Ulster Championship defeat back in May. Donegal had fought back from that early Grugan blow but O’Neill had other ideas, raising the green flag from a penalty right before the break when a sin-bin visit for Donegal ‘keeper, caused by his tackle on Aidan Nugent that led to the penalty, proved crucial.

Armagh built on that O’Neill inspired momentum and never looked back, five quick points in succession at the start of the second half sending them on their way to a win that was copper fasted by a third goal from midfielder Stephen Sheridan.

The last eight of the All-Ireland series won’t be the end of Armagh’s ambitions after this win according to star man O’Neill, but they will keep their feet on the ground. Speaking to RTÉ after the game, he said, “We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We let ourselves down before and that’s the first time in about eight years we’ve put two big championship games back-to-back together and we’re just looking forward to the next game whoever that may be.

“But we have the potential to play at the highest level. A few weeks ago, we looked at ourselves and saw that our intensity wasn’t there. Today I think everybody could see the intensity was there from the word go.”

It was O’Neill’s possession from the throw-in that inspired that early Grugan goal and he added, “When you get a score, you’re happy and the goal is an extra bonus so it was a good start but we didn’t push on from there. Donegal kicked five or six in a row from there but we responded well and our fans were great. Armagh fans outnumbered Donegal fans three to one and we’re going to turn Croke Park orange in a few weeks.”

Early goal scorer Grugan also paid tribute to the Orchard County fans. He said, “Armagh have been crying out for that. The fans have stuck with us through thick and thin and the thing has really kind of built. Rather it was post-Covid times where people just have a hunger for football again and coming out for these big days.”

Kerry legend Kieran Donaghy has played a big part in Armagh’s renaissance this season as part of Kieran McGeeney’s backroom team and has urged his team to maintain that momentum against Galway.

“Yeah we do have momentum, it’s a valuable asset,” said Donaghy. “It’s very hard to get momentum so when you get it, you’ve got to protect it, honor it and keep your work-rate high.”

Donegal’s demise, watched by Ireland soccer captain Seamus Coleman, was met by a wall of silence from the beaten dressing room as manager Declan Bonner and his players refused to speak afterward amid speculation that Bonner will now quit the position.

Mayo Wins Easy

Mayo had off the field problems ahead of Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier win against Kildare at Croke Park when they found it impossible to get a hotel in Dublin, but on the pitch they had no issues accommodating a 2-13 to 0-14 win over Kildare to book a quarterfinal showdown with Kerry.

Like the Kerry hurlers a week earlier, James Horan’s side couldn’t find accommodation and had to travel on the day but those logistical problems had no bearing on James Horan’s players despite the evening kick-off.

“Six o’clock is a hard time for a game,” said Horan. “Do you come up the night before for the game and then you can’t get hotels on the Friday night? You don’t know until the Monday. It’s hard to book a hotel so we couldn’t come up the Friday night so we came up today Saturday.

“Is that a lot of traveling on the day of the game? Even if you did come up the day before the game, six o’clock is a long time to be hanging around in a hotel. You’re always trying to balance those things and get them right.” 

Horan did question the GAA’s rule that Championship squads have to be submitted on Thursday morning before a Saturday game. He explained, “We’d a player that got sick this morning and couldn’t come, and we had a player that got injured on Thursday. The GAA rule is one of the craziest rules that ever existed.

“We had a game last weekend against Monaghan, and we trained Tuesday and Thursday. I’ve to submit a 26 on Thursday morning by 9 a.m. If anyone gets injured, or hurt, or anything after that, you can’t add anyone to the panel.

“I’m not sure if people know or understand that, it’s one of the stupidest rules that I’ve heard of. So we arrived with 24 players today, and in a game like that, that cuts your options. So why can’t it be a day before, or whenever?”

Mayo will need to up the ante against Kerry next time out, but for Kildare the season has ended with a heavy defeat to Dublin and this loss to Mayo. Kildare showed some improvement as they led by six points at one stage on Saturday but a strong Mayo finish, highlighted by a goal from Oisin Mullin in the 62nd minute, sealed the win for Horan’s team.

“These fellas have had a lot thrown at them over the last couple of weeks,” said Kildare boss Glenn Ryan afterward. “Certain derogatory tweets by people in our own county and our own media. Doesn’t help. It doesn’t help these fellas get over it.

“Sure, Jesus, it was a horrible place for these lads to be in. But from the night we came back, their resolve is something you have to really admire. Ultimately, we’ll all be judged on results and what it is we win. But there’s certain human qualities you like to see in people and these fellas have shown those qualities that you like and admire in abundance.”

Pep Talk Boosts Cork 

Cork produced a second half fightback just when it was needed to see off Limerick by 2-18 to 1-16 in the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round two game at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, a result that earned them a date with Dublin in the last eight.

Interim manager John Cleary revealed afterwards that he had to have words with his players before goals from Cathal O’Mahony and a Brian Hurley penalty saw Cork home despite a late Limerick green flag from Brian O’Donovan.

“We were disappointed at halftime as we didn’t play at all with any intensity and let Limerick run at us,” Cleary told RTE afterwards. “The plea at halftime was for us to up our game. If we don’t, Limerick were going to run through us. We did up the ante and we did up our intensity and we got the two big scores, the two goals, and that was the difference in the end.

“We’ll prepare now for Croke Park. It’s great for this team to be going to Croke Park. The ship is steady now. We won the last two games to get out of relegation and then won two of our three Championship games. We deserve to be here and are looking forward to it.”

Wexford Buries Kerry 

Wexford hurlers had little to worry them in Tralee on Saturday as Kerry’s All-Ireland qualifying series hopes ended with a 3-30 to 0-18 defeat to Darragh Egan’s side.

Clare are next up for Wexford in this weekend’s quarterfinal at Semple Stadium, with Egan agreeing that a step up in all departments will be needed to overcome the Banner.

“Absolutely, Clare showed massive energy last week in the Munster final, it was very impressive,” he said when talking to the media after the Kerry win. “But one thing is that these lads are well used to playing Clare in the last few years.

“Clare have been building significantly in the last few years under (manager) Brian Lohan, and we know exactly what we’ll face next Saturday in Thurles but we’ll be ready for it. We’ve a lot of homework to do this week, because we absolutely didn’t look at Clare at all last week.”

The full time stats from Tralee

— Wexford GAA (@OfficialWexGAA) June 11, 2022

Cork KOs Antrim

Cork avoided any potential banana skin at Corrigan Park on Saturday, Kieran Kingston’s team fully deserving of their 3-27 to 2-19 win in the All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarterfinal over Antrim.

As they prepare to face Galway this Saturday in the quarterfinal itself, Kingston was happy to get out of Belfast with the desired result after going in a point down at the interval.

“We lost the middle third in the first half but we got control in the second half,” Kingston said. “People might think we were complacent coming in and took Antrim for granted, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We knew coming up here the history of results between Antrim and Cork over the years here and their results here in League and Championship. I spoke to the lads about that leading into the game and I have spent a lot of time here, up in Cushendall, so I’m well aware of Antrim hurling.”

*This roundup first appeared in the June 15 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.

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